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Most Valuable Antique Wood Planes (Rarest One Worth $9,800+) – History Tools

Most Valuable Antique Wood Planes: Rare Treasures Worth Up To $25,000
Sarah Whiteman

For passionate hand tool woodworkers and collectors, antique wood planes are revered and highly sought after. Far more than just a tool for smoothing and shaping wood, planes made by master craftsmen in the 18th and 19th centuries represent the pinnacle of the toolmaker‘s art. Today, the rarest examples are true treasures, with values reaching into five figures.

So what makes an antique wood plane so desirable and valuable to collectors? Several key factors determine the worth of these old tools on the market:

Age and Rarity
Generally, wood planes made before 1850 are considered true antiques. The older the plane, the rarer and more valuable it is likely to be, with the very earliest examples from the 1700s being most prized.

However, age alone doesn‘t make a plane valuable – it must also be scarce. Planes produced in very limited quantities or custom "one-off" planes made by a master craftsman for a special purpose are highly sought after. In some cases, only a handful of examples of a particular model or maker‘s plane are still known to exist, driving prices sky high.

As with any antique, condition plays a huge role in the value of a wood plane. Planes that have survived in excellent, original condition with clear maker‘s marks, little wear, and no repairs or replacement parts (especially the iron/blade) will bring the highest prices.

Some signs of use and age are expected and acceptable, but planes with missing parts, cracks, splits, or sloppy repairs are less desirable. The holy grail is a plane that looks like it just came off the master‘s workbench!

Maker and Provenance
Antique tools made by certain legendary makers command higher prices, and wood planes are no exception. Planes by revered British makers like Norris, Spiers, and Mathieson are always in demand, as are American-made planes from top makers like Ohio Tool Co., Tidey, Bailey, and Chaplin.

In addition, planes with a noteworthy provenance or history of ownership, such as those made for or used by a famous furniture maker, can bring a significant premium. A plane that was owned by an esteemed craftsman is like owning a piece of woodworking history.

Quality and Features
Not all antique wood planes are created equal in terms of quality. Planes with innovative designs, precision construction, and premium materials are more valuable. Examples include:

  • Norris‘ all-steel dovetailed planes with complex adjustments
  • Spiers‘ planes with brass or gunmetal sides and dovetailed steel soles
  • Mathieson‘s planes with intricate mouth adjusters and rosewood infills
  • Tidey and Chaplin‘s multi-function planes with two irons and built-in fences

In addition, larger planes like jointers and fore planes tend to be scarcer and bring higher prices than small smoothers. Planes with early patented features or unique elements are also highly prized.

Most Valuable Examples
So which antique wood planes are the best of the best in terms of value and collectibility? Here are some of the rarest and most expensive wood planes to ever sell at auction:

  1. OHIO TOOL CO Ebony Center Wheel Plow Plane – $24,995
    Only three examples of this extremely rare 1850s era plow plane are known. Made with an ebony body and intricate ivory trim.

  2. NORRIS A-7 Adjustable Shoulder Plane – $9,800
    Rare British plane by the renowned Norris firm. Features rosewood infill and a unique two-part design for the shoulder and bullnose on the same plane.

  3. TIDEY July 4th 1854 Patent Double Beveling Plane – $13,995
    Exceptionally rare example of Milton Tidey‘s innovative plane with two irons for complex molding profiles. Only a few made.

  4. SPIERS No. 5 Skewed Improved Miter Plane – $9,500
    Classic miter plane by top Scottish maker Stewart Spiers. Dovetailed steel construction and fine rosewood infill, with scarce skewed iron.

  5. MATHIESON Bridle Plane – $7,500 (estimate)
    Extremely rare and complex plane from the famed British Mathieson firm, featuring brass bridle and fence. Possibly only 2-3 examples extant.

Antique wooden planes at this level are the best of the best – masterpieces that represent the height of the planemaker‘s craft. Other planes by Norris, Spiers, Mathieson, and other top makers routinely sell in the $3,000-$5,000 range for rare models in excellent condition.

Tips for Collectors
Collecting antique wood planes is not for the faint of heart – it requires a significant investment of both time and money. To be a successful collector, several things are essential:

  1. Learn as much as you can. Read the classic books on antique planes, like Goodman‘s "British Planemakers" or Hack‘s "The Ultimate Guide to Collectible Stanley Tools." Join a collector‘s club like the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association and attend their events.

  2. Focus your collection. Trying to collect every wood plane ever made is nearly impossible. Specialize in a particular maker, era, or type of plane to build a meaningful collection.

  3. Buy the best condition you can afford. It‘s better to have a few high-quality planes in great shape than a bunch of "projects." Condition is king!

  4. Get to know the top dealers and auction houses. Develop relationships with reputable dealers who specialize in antique tools and attend the major tool auctions in person if possible.

  5. Network with other collectors. Some of the best finds come through word of mouth. Join online forums, social media groups, and professional organizations to connect with like-minded collectors.

  6. Be patient. Assembling a top-notch collection takes time. Wait for the right planes to come along, and be prepared to pounce when they do. The market for the best antique wood planes is competitive!

Whether you‘re a serious tool collector, a traditional woodworker, or just appreciate fine craftsmanship, antique wood planes are fascinating and beautiful objects. While the prices for the rarest examples have soared in recent years, there are still opportunities to collect planes by top makers at more affordable levels.

The key is education – the more you know about what makes an antique plane valuable and desirable, the better your chances of finding that next treasure. By networking with other collectors, working with top dealers, and staying on top of the market, you can build a collection of antique wood planes you‘ll be proud to own and use in your workshop. So get out there and start the hunt – your next prized plane could be just around the corner!